U.S. flights to resume over Afghanistan
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Four months after prohibiting U.S. aircraft and pilots from flying over Afghanistan, the Federal Aviation Administration has lifted the ban.
There "now appears to be no heightened threat to civil aviation" in Afghanistan, according to the FAA rule, posted on the agency's Web site. The State Department "had no objection" to lifting the ban, the FAA said.
Federal authorities imposed the ban shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks, saying allowing civilian air traffic to fly over Afghanistan was unsafe and "contrary to the national security interests" of the United States.
The ban applied to all non-military U.S. pilots and to all civilian U.S. aircraft, except for nationals of other countries operating U.S.-registered aircraft for international airlines.
Last month, Afghanistan's Ariana Airlines made its first scheduled international flight in almost two and a half years.
Using the airline's only surviving jet -- an ageing Boeing 727-200 -- the flight took about 20 passengers to the Indian capital, New Delhi.
Ariana's international flights were suspended in October 1999 following the imposition of sanctions on Afghanistan by the United Nations.
Those sanctions were finally lifted by the Security Council on January 13.
Under Taliban rule, with Afghanistan increasingly isolated, Ariana's network shrank to just a handful of destinations in Tajikistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The airline took a further hammering during the U.S. bombing campaign against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network based in the country.
A total of 16 aircraft were destroyed leaving the airline with just two serviceable planes -- one Russian-built Antonov 24, used on a twice-weekly domestic service to the western city of Heart, and the ageing 727.
Looking to the future once more the airline said its next planned destinations include Iran, Dubai and Uzbekistan, although no dates have yet been set.
-- CNN Producer Mike Ahlers contributed to this report
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